Ephesians chapter 1 unfolds the power of God. As we consider chapter 2 we are brought face-to-face with the grace of God. The chapter divides into two definite sections in which we find:
In the former section we are seen as being dead to God, as sinners, and, in the second, distant from God, for we are Gentiles.
The first ten verses set before us:
In verse 1, we are dead! Evidently, Paul has Gentiles in mind, as he writes ‘and you’. Death is seen in a threefold way in the word of God: natural death, to which we are all appointed; eternal death, seen as the second death, Rev. 20. 14, for all who reject the claims of God upon their lives; and spiritual and moral death, which is a man’s separation from God during his lifetime. The cause of this is the ‘sins’ that mark us. Death is not the extinction of being, but separation from God.
In verse 2, we see not only what we were, i.e., dead, but what we were doing. We see dead men walking – men who walk ‘according to the course of this world’, that is, a system of life that leaves God out of the reckoning, and forgets that the individual must face eternity. The world system is seen to be controlled by ‘the prince of the power of the air’, meaning men are devil-led. Not only so, but the devil is at work in the lives of men, as he works in ‘the children of disobedience’. This would reveal that God has given opportunity to men to respond to His claims upon them, but they, being led by the adversary, move in disobedience to God.
Verse 3 points out where we were going: we were heading for destruction. The apostle brings the Jews into the equation, as he states ‘among whom also we all had our conversation [manner of living] in times past’. Again, the moral failure, both physical and mental, is seen as the reason for the bringing of God’s wrath upon men. We must appreciate that it is because of our nature that we are brought under judgement.
As we come to verses 4-6 we are indebted to the movements of God towards us. We are now brought to life in the Lord Jesus! These verses are very closely linked with the closing section of chapter 1 and they demonstrate the power of God towards us in salvation. In the former section we can say ‘but man’, now we must emphasize the expression ‘but God’.
As we see the movements of God towards us, we must be thankful for the adjectives. We find that God is not only merciful but ‘rich in mercy’. Nor does He merely love us, but it is a ‘great love’. Mercy is a very individual thing, for God says, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy’, Rom. 9. 15. It is mercy that withholds the judgement men deserve, and it is the great love that moves His heart to bring, and offer, salvation to all men.
In verse 5 we have a God that dealt with us in the sad condition we were in, and recalls our past. But God has brought to life those who were once dead; it is these He has quickened, that is, caused to live. This is a life in relation to God, where both Jew and Gentile have been linked to the Lord Jesus. This is a work in the past, and, we are reminded, it is all of grace.
Paul now brings us to the present, and shows how we are seen raised and linked with the Lord in heavenly places. Does the verse imply that together we have been raised? It is with Christ that we have been made to sit in heavenly places! As far as God is concerned, we have been taken out of the sphere we were in before salvation, and we are now associated with the Lord in a new position altogether. All this is ‘in Christ’, bringing before us the place we occupy in the Lord. As worshippers in the book of Hebrews, we are linked to the holiest of all. Peter sees us as ‘pilgrims and strangers’, and brings us into the wilderness, 1 Pet. 2. 11. But Paul lifts us from the earth and sees us living in the heavenlies as those alive from the dead.
‘The heavenlies’ are a feature of this epistle that has a bearing on the movements of God during this present church age. In chapter 1 verse 20 it is the place of exaltation for the Lord Jesus. In our present passage, it denotes the separation of believers from this world. In chapter 3 verse 10, it is the scene of angelic observation, as they discern the manifold wisdom of God in the church. But it is also the place of Satanic opposition to all that is of God, 6. 12.
We find that God has great thoughts regarding the believers. Today, they are despised and scorned, but, in verse 7, the day is coming when the world will have a glorious sight before them, as they see the saints displayed. The ages to come will unfold the wonder of this present age when God is moving in grace to save poor guilty sinners, as His kindness has been manifested in the Lord Jesus. The church, which is His body, is not for present testimony to the world; the local assembly has that responsibility. In a future day, the world will see what God has been doing through the gospel!
The following verses show the provision that was made for our salvation as we were enriched by God. All is of grace, teaching us that when we did not deserve salvation nevertheless God wrought in grace to bring us to it. The means of salvation is simply by faith. Now faith is not natural, for Romans chapter 10 verse 17 manifests that ‘faith cometh’, but thank God it cometh by ‘hearing … the word of God’. Well might we be encouraged to preach the word, for this is the means by which God saves sinners. No form of entertainment, shows, or dancing will convict a sinner and bring salvation! Similarly, salvation cannot be earned; it comes as a free gift, and, once received, it cannot be challenged. Although much has been said and written regarding verse 8, according to the stand one would take doctrinally, the simplicity of the scripture is all that is required to fathom the wonder of the means of salvation the Lord has for men. It is ‘by grace’ out of faith, and is ‘the gift’ from God. Well might the following verse proclaim that it is not of works!
Having established in verse 1 that we are dead, our salvation cannot be of works, for dead men cannot work! The second reason given for the fact that it is not of works is that no man ‘should boast’ before God regarding any salvation that he thinks he can attain to. The only boasting that will be known in heaven’s courts is that which boasts in the finished work of the Lord Jesus to secure our salvation. Revelation chapter 5 sets forth the One who is worthy, and who will have all the adulation for the salvation into which we have been brought.
Before our conversion we were controlled by ‘the prince of the power of the air’, and he worked in our lives to produce disobedience to God. Now we discover that after conversion a new power is working within us as we have become His workmanship. The word ‘workmanship’, poiema, relates to something made, and that which is made is seen as a ‘poem’. It is used of the original creation in Romans chapter 1 verse 20 where it is evident that man sees this handiwork of God, but refuses to believe the sight of his eyes. Another ‘poem’ has now been written which is the salvation of sinners. This is further evidence to men of the transforming power of God that makes us new creatures in Christ Jesus, and, as Peter writes, it baffles men that we ‘run not with them to the same excess of riot’, 1 Pet. 4. 4.
This work of God, like everything else in Ephesians, is in Christ Jesus. Nothing is done without Christ, and all that we have is in Christ. This ‘workmanship’ is unto ‘good works’. How different from that which marked our origin in verses 1-3 where all we sought to fulfil was the lust of the flesh and desires of the mind! These works that God would see in our lives were ordained prior to our salvation. The Lord has a pathway for believers to follow, and this has been prepared for us. Even as Christians we are not left to our own thoughts as to the character of life we ought to live, but God has predetermined all He desires us to fulfil, ultimately to glorify Him.
The purpose of God for this age was all designed before the world came into being. In chapter 1, we saw how we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and the purpose of this choice is explained in the verses following. When we look at verses 10-14, we can see again that God has foreordained that the Lord Jesus will take up universal government during His millennial reign. In association with that, there is the place that we as believers will share, and this was also in the purposes of God. Here, in chapter 2, we realize that the walk that God would have the saints manifest was also foreordained for us. In these things God has mapped out the destiny for all who are redeemed, and desires us to understand His purpose for us.